Christmas came and went, and with the help of a kindly neighbor who did my grocery shopping for me, I gradually got better.
I was doing some writing on my computer late in December when I spilled my drink on the keyboard – it died a fast and clean death as I watched. It was old and the keys were falling off (I had attached an auxiliary keyboard and mouse) and it was running XP – no longer supported – and had little computing power or memory. I had complained to all who would listen that it could not set up and run a blog as Word Press just gave me pop up warnings about XP and lack of memory when I tried. They wanted me to upgrade and I couldn’t.
After all my complaints, a very kindly fellow blogger –Robyn – contacted me and said she was updating and would like to gift me with her computer. I readily agreed and was amazed when a powerful quad core laptop showed up in the mail. It was a Cadillac of computers and was only a few years old – I was profusely thankful.
So my health was still improving, and I kept pestering the management for the internet. Early in January, they told me that the internet was back on and my neighbors were having no problems. I could not get the new computer to hook up to the cable connection provided in my room. Over the next six weeks I had three technicians come to visit and their laptops all worked on my cable line. They checked everything, including the routers and modem. And none could figure out why my computer wouldn’t go online. I took my laptop out to two computer stores and it went on their internet in a flash and yet when I returned home, it would not connect to my internet. I called an old friend of mine who currently runs the IT department for a major retailer and is responsible for about 10,000 PCs across Canada and a room full of servers. We spent an hour going over every setting on the computer and still it would not connect. He was surprised and said he would drop over the next week to check it out. Meanwhile, I made arrangements with the local University to have them take a look at it as soon as I got my benefit cheque.
And then came Tuesday, February 16, 2016.
At 3:30 am Tuesday morning it began to snow, softly at first with that windless damp air that spoke of more to come. Then the snow started to fall faster and faster. As the day went on the winds picked up and Ottawa was virtually shut down by what ended up being the worst single day snow storm in the weather history of the city. It snowed and snowed and the wind howled – eventually leaving 52 cms (about 21 inches) of snow in 17 hours with drifts 5 or 6 feet deep. I had plugged in a small electric space heater to combat the chill air from the powerful winds that were finding every crack and crevice to enter.
Around suppertime, I decided to have hot dogs and try out the used Forman Grill that I had picked up for a few bucks. I got the dogs split and cooking on the grill when I figured that toasted hot dog buns would go perfect with the grilled meat, and so without thinking as I was humming along to some tunes I placed the hot dog buns in the toaster oven and turned it on Bake.
It was all over – with a loud “POP!” I blew the electrical for my room and part of the building. I was using different plugs, each with its own power bar, and none of those overloaded – rather it was the main supply that kicked off. I had the laptop open on my desk and was doing some word processing and it switched seamlessly to battery, lighting the pitch black room with a hazy light from the screen – the only sound the howling of the wind outside. I picked up my cell phone and called the manager confessing, apologizing and asking if he could come over and reset the breakers, which were locked in the basement and not accessible to the residents. He mumbled and grumbled while I apologized profusely and then he got bundled up and trudged through snow up to his thighs in places to reset the breakers.
When the power flickered back on, a pop-up appeared on the laptop computer screen – “Would you like to categorize this network as Public, Home, Work,” I knew that there was a LAN in the building that I could access but I could never get from there to the WAN that supplied the internet. I chose “Public” and the pop-up disappeared. Another came up in its place: “You are now connected to the internet”. I found this highly unlikely and went to programs to find Internet Explorer and select it. I had removed and reset all the shortcuts and Google in the process of trying to access the internet.
I could not believe my eyes; I was actually on the internet. I checked a few websites and my e-mail (over 9,000 e-mails) and then called a friend and neighbor: “Steve, Steve, you won’t believe this: I’m on the internet!” He rushed over and oohed and aaahed at the screens flashing by as I navigated a few sites.
So, in the end, there must have been a partially set or faulty breaker that was providing perhaps reduced voltage or some similar effect that interfered with my internet. When the hot dog buns blew the breakers and they had to all be reset, the problem was resolved and months of efforts finally resulted in the internet returning. If it goes off again, I will know that the breakers need to be reset – an odd but apparently effective way to re-establish internet. I will not have to involve a major snow storm or hot dog buns the next time around.
Paul Curran photo by Paul Curran; other images by Cordelia’s Mom